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The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

The Chocolate War (1974)

by Robert Cormier

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Chocolate War (1)

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ALA BBYA; RGG: Often included in Middle School Language Arts curriculums--portrayal of adolescent culture at a small boys parochial high school. Narrated by several individual characters, twisting plot lines, very dark.
  rgruberhighschool | May 1, 2015 |
Not really impressed. The dialog is laughably outdated. The plot wasn't nearly as intense or intriguing as the summary made it out to be. None of the characters were interesting. It just really didn't hold my interest at all. It's basically a hyperbolic cautionary-tale about peer pressure. ( )
  benuathanasia | Apr 1, 2015 |
This particular work tries very hard to be the next Lord of the Flies but fails miserably. Too much of it is bogged down in unnecessary shifting from one character after another until the reader gets so lost that the story dies with a whimper. None of the characters are even worth the time to try to engage in since the writer writes like one does a weekly newspaper article describing happenings in a local school...oh right, the writer is a newspaper journalist which tells you he needs to stick with newspapers & not bother with boring the reader out of one's mind. ( )
  walterhistory | Feb 17, 2015 |
This book was an extremely easy read, but just okay. Seems awfully easy to be on high school reading lists. ( )
  Kathryn_Brown | Dec 1, 2014 |
Summary: Everyone knows that Trinity, an exclusive New England Catholic prep school, is really run by the Vigils, a secret group of students who dole out "assignments" to their fellow students. These assignments are usually disruptive or embarrassing pranks, but nobody dares defy the Vigils, and even the teachers look the other way. Freshman Jerry Renault is still dealing with his mother's death, but all he wants is to get through classes and make the football team. But he soon draws the attention of the Vigils, and is given an assignment: refuse to participate in the mandatory fundraising chocolate sale. This puts him right in the line of fire from the particularly sadistic teacher organizing the sale, so Jerry should be relieved when the Vigils order him to start selling chocolate a few weeks later. But for some reason, Jerry continues to refuse, and that's when the real trouble begins.

Review: I read this for Banned Books Week, as it's been one of the most frequently challenged/banned books almost every year since it came out in the 70s. I can see why this book is assigned - it's a realistic look at bullying/hazing in a boys' school that would provide an interesting springboard for classroom discussion on the topic. It also has aged really well - there's a few bits with hippies in the park that date it, and of course the prices make it obvious the book was written several decades ago ("But no one will buy a candy bar for two whole dollars!!!") - but the situations and the motivations are (sadly) just as applicable today as they were in the 70s. It's also immediately apparent why it's been challenged - there's some frank references to masturbation, although nothing particularly explicit, some violence (the book is about bullying, after all, and some of it is physical bullying), plus it doesn't paint a particularly flattering portrait of authority or Catholic schools. (There's also some "curse words", but of the "crap" and "damn" variety, which still scandalize the characters.) Personally, I don't think any of these things make it inappropriate for high school reading - on the contrary, it presents what I imagine is probably a pretty realistic view into the mind of a high school boy.

But, while I certainly wouldn't ban this book, I also don't know if I would assign it. First, while the references to sex and masturbation didn't bother me in and of themselves, I was put off by the fact that this book almost entirely lacks female characters, and the women that do show up are only there to be ogled and serve as fuel to the boys' masturbatory fantasies. But more than that, I had a problem with the message of the book. Jerry has a "Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?" poster in his locker that serves as a central theme of the book. But by the end, it becomes apparent that Cormier's answer to this question is "No, not unless you want the crap beat unrelentingly out of you." I don't necessarily need my books to have a happy ending, and I realize that the plucky underdog doesn't always win, but I found this book to be pretty bleak and ultimately kind of hopeless. Someone at my book club pointed out that this might be a generational thing, that in 1974 we were at the tail end of the Vietnam War, and maybe the "plucky underdog" mentality wasn't the prevailing attitude at the time, which was an interesting point I hadn't considered. But still, it led to me ultimately not really enjoying the reading experience.

I also wasn't a huge fan of the writing. Cormier's got an excellent way with description, and can craft a beautiful sentence. But the flow of this book was odd, jumping from character to character - mostly Jerry and Archie, the de facto leader of the Vigils, but also a number of secondary characters. This style isn't normally an issue for me, but in this case, whole pages would be given over to the backstory of a newly-introduced narrator… who in a few more pages would disappear, never to be heard from again. Distracting, to say the least. Overall, it was an interesting read, but not one I particularly enjoyed or am ever likely to revisit. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Eh. It's short enough that it's a quick read, and I can see how it would make a good read for a class discussion, but as a read-for-pleasure book, it was not my cup of tea. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Oct 20, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Cormierprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Flieger, RainerIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Muller, FrankNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taler, FriedrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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They murdered him.
In bed once more, Jerry lay without moving, trying to summon sleep. Listening to his father's snores, he thought of how his father was actually sleeping his life away, sleeping even when he was awake, not really alive. And how about me? What was it the guy on the Common had said the other day, his chin resting on the Volkswagen like some grotesque John the Baptist? You're missing a lot of things in the world.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
A young adult novel set in a parochial school. Jerry Renault does not want to participate in the school's chocolate sales. The headmaster, who has reasons of his own to want the sale to be successful, calls in the school's gang and asks them to put pressure on Jerry to make him conform. The results are catastrophic.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375829873, Paperback)

Does Jerry Renault dare to disturb the universe? You wouldn't think that his refusal to sell chocolates during his school's fundraiser would create such a stir, but it does; it's as if the whole school comes apart at the seams. To some, Jerry is a hero, but to others, he becomes a scapegoat--a target for their pent-up hatred. And Jerry? He's just trying to stand up for what he believes, but perhaps there is no way for him to escape becoming a pawn in this game of control; students are pitted against other students, fighting for honor--or are they fighting for their lives? In 1974, author Robert Cormier dared to disturb our universe when this book was first published. And now, with a new introduction by the celebrated author, The Chocolate War stands ready to shock a new group of teen readers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:41 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

A high school freshman discovers the devastating consequences of refusing to join in the school's annual fund raising drive and arousing the wrath of the school bullies.

» see all 5 descriptions

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